Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes (Patate al forno)

Patate al forno (Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes)

In contorno by Frank32 Comments

It’s often the most obvious things that we overlook. And so I just realized that I’ve never blogged about patate al forno, Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes —without a doubt the most classic Italian contorno of them all. There’s no mystery about its popularity. It literally goes with any meat or fish main course, and it’s simplicity itself to make. For the basic recipe, you just mix up potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges, with olive oil, chopped garlic, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper, and then roast the wedges in a hot oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown, tossing them from time to time so they cook evenly. It’s the essence of authentic Italian cooking: Utterly simple yet utterly delicious.

I first had this slightly dressed up version of Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes when I first visited Rome back in the 1970s. The Italian mamma who prepared this dish was an excellent cook—she made a mean penne all’arrabbiata, too—but of all the dishes she served that day, this one stood out. This version is equally at home for Sunday dinner, holidays or a dinner party.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

  • 4-6 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Fruity, extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and epper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary, plus a few leaves

Directions

Peel and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can manage—if you have a mandolin, that would be perfect for the job. Make sure to immerse the potatoes in a bowl of water as you peel them, and slice them quickly, to avoid disclosing.

Just as soon as you’re done peeling and slicing, pat the potato slices dry with paper towels. In a large mixing bowl, dress the slices with generous amounts of olive oil, salt and pepper, along with a few rosemary leaves and one or two cloves of garlic which you will have minced as finely as possible. (Here’s one case when a garlic press comes in handy.) Set aside.

Take a large baking dish and rub the insides all over with the cut side of another clove of garlic which you will have sliced in half. Arrange the potato slices evenly in the dish, partially overlapping the top layer of potato slices like roof shingles, in a decorative pattern in the dish: lined up in rows if your dish is square or rectangular, in concentric rings if it’s round or oval. Add enough water to come up about half the height of the potatoes—it’s best to drizzle the water in at the sides of the dish so as not to displace the dressing. Drizzle the top of the potatoes with some more olive oil and sprinkle with some more salt. Finally, place a sprig of rosemary on top of the potatoes.

Roast the potatoes in a moderate (180C/350F) oven for about 45-60 minutes, until all the water has evaporated, the potato slices are soft inside and golden brown on top and around the edges. (Just how brown is a matter of taste—I like mine fairly lightly brown, as pictured.)  If the potatoes are not brown enough for you, you can run them under the broiler for a minute or two, till they’re done to your liking. Remove the rosemary sprig and let the dish rest for a good 1o minutes or so before serving directly from the baking dish.

Patate al forno (Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes)

Notes on Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes

The potatoes you want when making Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes are the kind you would use for potato salad, with firm, yellow flesh—not the mealy kind you would use for mashing or for gnocchi. In North America, Yukon Golds, which fall under the ‘all purpose’ category, also make a fine choice. In Italy, the potatoes are traditionally peeled, but very thin skinned, organic potatoes can be left unpeeled if you prefer. Also key to success is the olive oil, which—in my book—should be the intensely fruity extra virgin olive oil from southern Italy.

You will notice that I haven’t given precise measurements here, because they’re just not necessary. You’ll need to be generous with the seasonings, especially the oil and salt. As you mix, make sure all the slices are well covered with the oil, as if you were dressing an Italian-style salad. Then give it a good pinch of salt and the rest of the seasonings, again all the slices should get a bit of seasoning. You can adjust the pepper to your taste. (Personally, I rather like peppery potatoes.)

Like many simple dishes, it’s the little things that make all the difference when making Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes. For best results, don’t layer the potatoes too deeply in the baking dish and make sure all the water has evaporated during roasting. Unlike the original less formal recipe, where you roast the potatoes in a hot oven for say 20-30 minutes, in this upscale version it’s better to roast them longer but at more moderate heat, as indicated above. This allows the top to brown nicely, while leaving enough time for the lower layers to cook till tender. And since you’re serving directly from the baking dish, it also prevents excessive, unattractive spattering. But here’s the key step, one that too many people forget about: the rest before serving. This allows the seasoned oil to be absorbed back into the potatoes, making them unctuous and delicious. Otherwise, the oil gets left behind in the pan. Your Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes will be less caloric, but they won’t be anywhere near as good.

Italians also prepare stovetop potatoes with the same flavorings, which they call patate in padella, or in a skillet. This version is equally as good, in my book, although oven-roasting does give the potatoes a special flavor.

Post Scriptum

Apologies to all you regular readers. As you might have noticed, I haven’t posted for a few weeks now. A nasty cold that never seemed to go away, coupled with a heavy workload at the office and sundry social commitments have conspired to keep me out of the circulation—but I’m finally back. Thanks so much for your patience and loyal readership!

Patate al forno (Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes)

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4-6

Patate al forno (Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes)

Ingredients

  • 4-6 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Fruity, extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and epper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary, plus a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can manage—if you have a mandolin, that would be perfect for the job. Make sure to immerse the potatoes in a bowl of water as you peel them, and slice them quickly, to avoid disclosing.
  2. Just as soon as you're done peeling and slicing, pat the potato slices dry with paper towels. In a large mixing bowl, dress the slices with generous amounts of olive oil, salt and pepper, along with a few rosemary leaves and one or two cloves of garlic which you will have minced as finely as possible. (Here's one case when a garlic press comes in handy.) Set aside.
  3. Take a large baking dish and rub the insides all over with the cut side of another clove of garlic which you will have sliced in half. Arrange the potato slices evenly in the dish, partially overlapping the top layer of potato slices like roof shingles, in a decorative pattern in the dish: lined up in rows if your dish is square or rectangular, in concentric rings if it's round or oval. Add enough water to come up about half the height of the potatoes—it's best to drizzle the water in at the sides of the dish so as not to displace the dressing. Drizzle the top of the potatoes with some more olive oil and sprinkle with some more salt. Finally, place a sprig of rosemary on top of the potatoes.
  4. Roast the potatoes in a moderate (180C/350F) oven for about 45-60 minutes, until all the water has evaporated, the potato slices are soft inside and golden brown on top and around the edges. (Just how brown is a matter of taste—I like mine fairly lightly brown, as pictured.) If the potatoes are not brown enough for you, you can run them under the broiler for a minute or two, till they're done to your liking. Remove the rosemary sprig and let the dish rest for a good 1o minutes or so before serving directly from the baking dish.
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Comments

  1. I don’t realize how much I look forward to your posts, until they pop up in my feed and then I’m thrilled. If your blog were actually in print, most of the pages would be dog eared. Thanks for sharing your passion with us.

  2. Pingback: Patate al forno (Italian Oven Roasted Potatoes) | Memorie di Angelina | Good Things From Italy

  3. Look I am a Mid-western girl. I am totally not sure what Italians eat and which region of Italy eats what but I will say this the part of Mid-west I am from potatoes rule! I made this dish tonight with a chicken and prosciutto dish and man….the potatoes were great! I will definitely make them again! The garlic was just enough and the potatoes were a tender touch to the mouth with a creamy finish. YUMMO! I will make these for my family next time I go home.

  4. My mother disliked turning on the oven, so it was usually patate in padella for us. I like when you talk about dishes like this one: attention to detail turns them into memorable meals.

  5. …Can I bring my own Italian experience and poin of view?.. One comment above stressed the quality of Italian (Tuscan) potatoes…well, I lived in Italy for most of my adult life (in Milan + holydays all over the country) and I can say that actually we Italians do not shine in the potato department, at least in comparison to what I can find here in the UK. In most italian shops you will find two, three varieties of potatoes .. Red waxy ones, mealy ones and if u r lucky occasionally, new potatoes.
    Most likely the Tuscan potato dish was memorable for the copius ammount of olive oil that had been used. Unless your US potatoes are really appaling, one should be able to easily replicate Italian potato dishes almost everywhere.
    (having said this, I have also to admit that Italian cousine all in all is not very strong on potatos, a part from buttery mash (excellent version in Hazan, as usual), gatto’ di patate from Naples, gnocchi, some potato croquettes, some oven cooked dishes of potatoes and mushrooms from the Liguria region and few Tielle from central-south Italy for instance.The French repertoire is more interesting,
    Stefano

  6. I could eat this as a full meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It’s why I keep purchasing Rosemary plants during the winter. Glad you are feeling better.

  7. We like the extra touches to this patate al forno recipe! It’s a staple in our house too, so it’s nice to have a few new twists to try. We’ve also been pleasantly surprised to realize that we’ve completely forgotten to blog about a classic dish. Glad to hear you’re feeling better – we’re hoping for an early end to old man winter.

    1. Author

      Thanks! I wouldn’t mind an early spring—either that, or being snowed in for a week. Don’t much care for anything in-between!

  8. Back in 1996 my husband and I traveled to Italy, primarily the Florence area, to a cooking school/vacation. Fun. The times we did eat out in restaurants and had roasted potatoes was so memorable. Yes, they were golden potatoes but none of the potatoes in the states had the same wonderful flavor. I tried all varieties of golden potatoes. Could it have been the olive oil? I don’t know but I never have been able to duplicate the roasted potatoes from Florence.

    1. Author

      The olive oil may well have been part of it, but the sad truth is that most of the produce we get in this country just doesn’t compare with the quality you can get in Italy. Have you tried farmers markets? They’re your best bet, even if they can be pricey.

      1. Yes, that is now where I get most of my produce. I raise livestock, etc now that I’m retired (if you call it retirement) so I am part of our farmer’s market which makes my one stop shopping easy. No difference with the potatoes I’ve purchased there so I think I’ll try using the fruity olive oil rather than my normal extra virgin one. I’ll let you know if that does the trick or at least enhances the flavor more.

  9. I’ve got this in the oven now. (It won’t be as good as yours because I didn’t have a large enough baking dish–still, we’ll hope for the best.) Two questions. 1) If a person worked fast enough, could you skip soaking the slices? I found that it took me longer to pat them dry than it did to slice the potatoes, so they wouldn’t have had any more time to discolor had I just sliced them and then dressed them. Or is there a reason other than discoloration, to soak them? 2) Any thoughts about alternative seasonings, or would that be sacrilegious (somehow I don’t think you worry too much about sacrilege). Thanks from one of your biggest fans.

      1. Author

        LOL, I don’t know… but thanks so much for your comment and for your readership, Ken! To answer your questions:

        1. Sure, if you work quickly you can skip the soak. No other purpose than to prevent discoloring. (In some recipes I’ve seen the soak serves to remove excess starch, but that’s not an issue here.)

        2. No, I’m not too hung up on sacrilege, that’s for sure. 😉 You could try marjoram or oregano instead of rosemary, for example, and stay well within Italian taste profiles. You could also try experimenting with ground spices you like, although that would take you into heretical territory.

  10. Frank – I’m so glad you’re feeling better and back to your cooking and food writing. You never fail to produce delicious, authentic Italian food.

  11. Glad to here you are on the mend we have all had the nasty cold that is doing the rounds and seems to last forever.

  12. le patate del supermercato dopo un paio di giorni germogliano e fanno schifo,appena ritorno dal contadino che mi procura delle patate buone provo a fare la tua ricetta, buona giornata !

    1. Author

      Grazie tante, Chiara. Questa ricetta fatta con delle patate dal contadino dovrebbe essere una squisitezza… Buona giornata anche a te!

  13. Happy to hear that you’re feeling better and back to posting; I’ve been starving…

  14. Dear Frank,

    I truly admire your work and wish I could stop by more often! Everything you make looks so wonderful, and you are such an inspiration to my Italian cooking, with so many things I’ve never heard of. Your potatoes caught my eye since they looked so similar to the photo of my potato pizza that I recently did! Very similar! I showed my mother your photo and we are in agreement that we need to make this very soon!

    Thanks for posting all things AUTHENTICALLY Italian!! Love them all!

    Christina

    1. Author

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Christina! Always a pleasure. I remember your potato pizza, una vera prelibatezza!

  15. Glad that you are on the mend. Take care of yourself and drink lots of fluids..try chamomile tea and honey as my Italian mother often suggested for the children…the adults got hot wine and sugar!

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